This is a simple dal with basic ingredients found in all Indian kitchens. It is, in fact, simple enough for a teenager to make with no prior cooking experience. That was me, at 14 and this dal is the very first thing I ever ‘cooked’.
As part of our initiation into the Girl Guides’ Association, we were to ‘camp’ overnight in our school grounds. That was the exciting bit but soon enough a bombshell landed – we were also expected to cook a meal in our mini groups. Basic ingredients needed to be brought in and cooked over a ‘campfire’ of sorts. We didn’t know any 14 year olds who were let loose in the kitchen without supervision and yet here we were! Terrifying doesn’t even begin to describe it and most of us had visions of ourselves crawling home starving.
After a series of near disasters with the campfire and a few disagreements over whether the rice was cooked or not, we did manage to produce a palatable enough meal that consisted of this dal, nearly-done rice and some semi-charred potatoes. All polished off by a bunch of hungry Girl Guides, accompanied by whoops of delight and bolstered by a generous dose of accomplishment.
The simplicity of the dal is its strength. It uses very basic ingredients and no fancy spices. It’s perfect for a quick and comforting meal whether you’re a novice or a veteran in the kitchen.
Do give it a go. I’d love to know what you think.
2 fistfuls (approx. 1/2 a cup) Moong dal
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 medium tomato
1 sharp green chilli, slit in half
3-4 large pods of garlic, cut into slivers
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
8-10 curry leaves
2 tablespoons of oil
a pinch of asafoetida
salt to taste
1 tablespoon chopped coriander (optional garnish)
- Wash the moong dal and soak it in water for about 30 minutes to an hour. Pressure cook for 1 whistle. If cooking without a pressure cooker, campfire style, boil the moong dal until it is cooked through but not completely mushy.
- Heat the oil. Add asafoetida and the cumin seeds. When they splutter, add the chilli and the curry leaves.
- When the chilli is seared in the oil, add the onion and cook till transparent.
- Add the slivers of garlic and saute until fragrant.
- Now add the chopped tomato. Saute for a minute.
- Add in the cooked dal, turmeric and salt.
- Give it all a good mix and cook for about 5 minutes on a medium flame so that all the flavours meld together.
- Turn off the heat. Garnish with chopped coriander.
- Serve hot with rice or chapatis. I like mine with a wedge of lime on the side.
The garlic and chillies are what flavour the dal. Do adjust the quantities depending on the varieties you are using. What you are aiming for is a lovely garlicky flavour with a punch of chilli.
I usually serve mine with rice or chapatis and a side of mildly flavoured potatoes so that they don’t take the focus away from the dal.